My student recital this year was canceled, as I’m sure is the case for many of you due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. In place of our in-person event, my students and I moved forward with “Plan B” — organizing a “virtual recital”. I went about this process similar to the way my friend Jonathan Roberts did, as discussed in this recent Teacher Feature post.
I pretty pleased with how it turned out, and I’d actually like to use this recital format again sometime in the future! In this long-form blog post, I’ll share specific steps for how I went about organizing and publishing my studio’s virtual recital, and what I learned along the way.
Step 1: Communication with Students and Parents
I began by sending an email out to my students at the end of March to announce the virtual recital. I like to “invite” participation, rather than “require” it — because some families are stressed/maxed out right now, and also because I want students to think of it as a privilege to participate!
In the email, I detailed what students needed to do to participate. I think it’s important to “coach” parents through exactly what we teachers would like them and our students to be doing. I am always careful to keep all communication with parents succinct and pleasant. Below is a screenshot of the email I sent out at the end of March.
During each student’s next lesson, I also informed them verbally about the virtual recital. It’s important students and parents both get the information from the teacher, rather than assuming one or the other will keep each other informed!
Over the weeks that followed, I sent a few friendly reminder emails to ensure that parents were keeping this project deadline in mind and helping their students along with their pieces.
Step 2: Collecting the Videos
To keep things easier for parents, I allowed them to send video files to me via whatever format was most comfortable for them: email, text, Dropbox, Google Drive, WeTransfer, etc. When the deadline rolled around and I began receiving video files from parents, I created a folder called “2020 Virtual Recital videos” on my computer to keep the files all in one place.
Inspired by Jonathan’s example, I planned to add applause sound effects to the end of each student video. That step is totally optional, in my opinion, but a nice touch if you enjoy video editing. So, actually, I created two folders on my computer: one for the “original”, unedited files and one for the “final” files.
Tip: Later, after the final videos are uploaded online, you can delete the “original” files from your computer. Video files take up so much space, and it’s good to keep your computer’s hard drive freed up and organized!
Step 3: Editing the Video Files
If I had wanted to do only basic edits, such as trimming off a few seconds of the beginning and end of the videos, I could have just used Quicktime Player on my Mac (open the desired video file, then go to Edit > Trim). But I wanted to also add an applause sound effect to the beginning/end of the videos. And I wanted to be able to combine two videos to create a duet for one of my students. Quicktime Player doesn’t have the capability to do those things, so I needed a different software option.
I decided to use Adobe Premiere Rush, deciding that Adobe Premiere Pro was overkill for this project. Premiere Rush is awesome — it’s streamlined to make basic video edits easy and fast. I absolutely love it. I was able to easily import the video file and the applause sound effect files, and then make a few quick edits. Then, I exported the file to the “final” folder on my computer. Easy!
I was even able to combine two videos, to create a duet of my student and I. How did we accomplish this? My student sent me a video of her playing her piece. While listening to her video through my earbuds, I recorded a video of myself playing the duet part. That way, I could follow her tempo carefully. While it’s not the same as being able to play together live, it’s still a nice way to honor our original plans!
Here are links to the applause sound effect files I used:
- FreeSoundEffects.com – for personal, non-commercial projects. Of those available on their website, “Applause 7”, “Claps 3”, and “crowd applause” were the tracks I liked and used the most.
- Just for fun, I ended up creating a blooper reel video, too. I found this blooper reel beep sound at FreeSound.org. You’ll need to create a free account before you can download any tracks from this site. The tracks are free, but some of them require attribution (give credit to the creator when you use the file). My blooper reel contained only my own bloopers, this time. Next time, I’m going to ask my students to save their bloopers and send them to me!
I have access to Premiere Rush due to being a subscriber of Adobe’s Creative Cloud (CC) software suite (as a blogger, I find the Adobe suite useful for various blogging-related projects). Adobe’s entire CC subscription is a bit pricy, but fortunately Premiere Rush is available as a standalone for $10/month (compare plans here). I think that’s pretty reasonable!
(NOTE: As with any subscription, be sure to read the terms carefully when you sign up. If you sign up for the month-to-month plan, you should be able to end your subscription anytime without penalty. But if you sign up for the annual plan, you will be charged a cancellation fee if you try to end your subscription before a year is up.)
I love Premiere Rush, but there are many other video editing software options. Below a short list you could look into. (Let us know in the comments below if you have other software suggestions!)
- Apple’s iMovie (Mac and iOS)
- OpenShot – Open-source video maker
- Screenflow – (Mac only) $129
- Filmora (Mac or Windows) $70 to buy outright; but it looks like there is educational pricing available.
Update: Here is a video tutorial I made showing you more specifics and tips for editing your student videos!
If editing your student videos doesn’t sound like fun, don’t assume organizing a virtual recital is out for you. The editing step is completely optional. If you have limitations as far as your time or current technological skills/resources, you can leave your students’ videos as-is and upload directly to YouTube.
In fact, if you REALLY want to make things easy on yourself, you could require students to each upload their own video to their own YouTube channel. Instruct students to submit the links to you (perhaps create a Google Form for this). Next, create a YouTube playlist for your virtual recital, and add each video to the playlist. Voila! I haven’t tried this myself, but I imagine it’d work pretty well as an alternative method!
That said, I do think adding the applause effect is a nice touch if you’re up for it!
Step 4: Creating Welcome and Thank You Videos
Next, I recorded a short video (about one minute in length), welcoming viewers and thanking students/families for participating in the virtual recital. I created a brief ending video, as well.
I think this is a very worthwhile step to take. It adds a nice personal touch to the project. And the nice thing about video is that you can retry any number of times until you get it right!
Step 5: Uploading the Videos to a YouTube Playlist
The next step is to upload the videos to YouTube. First, I created a playlist called “2020 Virtual Piano Recital.” I set the privacy setting to “unlisted”, so that only those who have a direct link to the playlist can access it. Some families might be fine with “public” settings, but personally I prefer to keep things more private!
Then, I uploaded each student video, making sure to set each one to the “unlisted” privacy setting as well.
Once they are all uploaded and added to the playlist, the videos can be moved into any order you prefer. At my student recitals, I like to mix students up rather than ordering them by level. Instead, I place contrasting moods or styles back-by-back in order to create an enjoyable program.
Step 6: Sharing the Virtual Recital YouTube Playlist
The final step is to “publish” or share the virtual recital playlist! Once everything was live, I sent out the playlist link to my students and their parents. I encouraged them to make some popcorn and enjoy the whole program. I also invited them to share the link with friends and family members.
I have received nothing but positive feedback so far from parents. They enjoyed watching the videos and seeing how everyone’s videos turned out (as did I!). One parent specifically thanked me for choosing the video format for our virtual recital, rather than holding it live over the internet, because this was low stress. We could all probably use a little less stress these days!
Things I Learned From This Project
Would I use this YouTube video playlist format again in the future? Absolutely! In fact, I’d like to do it again soon, except asking students to perform “everyday” pieces instead of our special, challenging recital pieces. This would result in a shorter recital, which might be nice, while giving students the experience of perfecting pieces and performing regularly.
What did I learn, and what would I do differently next time? Here’s a few of my personal notes:
- Time-wise, I’d say I spent about the same amount of time on this virtual recital as I typically do with preparations for my in-person student recitals.
- As mentioned earlier, I’d love to create a video of student bloopers next time! This means remembering to ask parents to save the “oops” videos and send them to you.
- In the announcement email, I forgot to ask my students to bow at the end of their video. Fortunately, they’re all pros by this point and they did all bow for their video! I’ve trained them well, I guess. 🙂
- I noticed that many students recorded their videos with their phones held vertically. I didn’t mind, but perhaps you might like to request students hold their phones the other way, so you’ll get videos in a horizontal orientation.
- A couple of parents had trouble sending their files — mainly, the students with long videos (as in, over three minutes). Be prepared to suggest more than one sending method, and coach them through it.
- When videos are texted, the result is lower quality files. This may or may not matter to you. I decided it wasn’t a big deal, and decided not to ask students to re-send.
All in all, I’d call it a success! I’m looking forward to doing it again.
I hope this post is useful to you, especially if you are planning your own virtual recital!
Leave a comment: I would love to know… What questions do you have about organizing your own virtual recital? If you’ve already done it before, what tips do you have to share?